|What is education doing
to our children?
Lewis' book is about education and how relativism leads to the "abolition of man" making him little more than a social experiment of his "conditioners." It begins with a discussion of an unnamed work Lewis calls the Green Book which is a "little book on English intended for 'boys and girls in the upper forms of schools.'" Lewis doesn't name the book or the authors because, "I do not want to pillory two modest practising (sic) school-masters who were doing the best they knew." At the same time he decries the evils he sees in the "actual tendency of their work."
He particularly emphasizes a "momentous" paragraph where the authors attribute statements of judgment to personal feelings when they write, "This confusion is continually present in language as we use it. We appear to be saying something very important about something: and actually we are only saying something about our own feelings."
Here's where grammar comes in.
Lewis responds to the authors, whom he calls Gaius and Titius, saying, if their view:
were consistently applied it would lead to obvious absurdities. It would force them to maintain that You are contemptible means I have contemptible feelings: in fact that Your feelings are contemptible means My feelings are contemptible. The schoolboy who reads this passage will believe two propositions: firstly, that all sentences containing a predicate of value are statements about the emotional state of the speaker, and, secondly, that all such statements are unimportant. It is true that Gaius and Titius have said neither of these things in so many words. They have treated only one particular predicate of value...as a word descriptive of the speaker's emotions. The pupils are left to do for themselves the work of extending the same treatment to all predicates of value: and no slightest obstacle to such extension is placed in their way.If you remember your grammar, a predicate nominative is an adjective referring back to the subject. Now it's true that some predicate nominatives are about the feelings of the person making the statement. If I say Pizza is delicious, I am, in fact describing my feelings and opinion about pizza. Others may disagree. However, if I say, Rabid dogs are vicious I am NOT saying I have vicious feelings about rabid dogs. I am stating a fact about the behavior of dogs who have rabies. But the Green Book authors fail to make this distinction and, in fact, as Lewis points out they use the adverb only in a way that trivializes and personalizes all statements of value:
The very power of Gaius and Titius depends on the fact that they are dealing with a boy: a boy who thinks he is 'doing' his 'English prep' and has no notion that ethics, theology, and politics are all at stake. It is not a theory they put into his mind, but an assumption, which ten years hence, its origin forgotten and its presence unconscious, will condition him to take one side in a controversy which he has never recognized as a controversy at all.Lewis was pointing out the danger of the focus on feelings evidenced in the Green Book and how it could distort the values and perceptions of students. It is the same tendency that infects modernism, relativism, and secular humanism, the tendency of people today who deny any objective truth and proclaim instead, You have your truth, and I have my truth. That statement, while true on the pizza level, is completely untrue when discussing serious issues of morality. Moral truths, based on the natural law instilled in man's heart, are true for all whether they accept them or not.
Words matter; grammar matters. Define your terms. Ask questions (the Socratic method). Argue respectfully. Truth is appealing to truth seekers. Engage with them. If you find yourself arguing with those who reject the truth, stop. Pray for them, but, as the Bible says, don't cast your pearls before swine. Those who have cast off their humanity and God's truth will tear you to pieces if they can. Pray for them.